Williams: U not effectively enforcing smoking codes

By Alicia Williams

Secondhand smoke kills.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke, a human carcinogen, was found to be the cause of premature death in people who do not smoke, and there is no risk-free level of exposure, according to a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report. ETS is the cause of more than 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States, and any exposure to it increases the risk of developing lung cancer by up to 30 percent.

ETS is also responsible for increasing the risks of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and for the deaths of tens of thousands non-smoking heart disease patients each year. The report proved that even low-level exposure for short periods could increase risks of heart attacks and begin the cancer process.

The only protection for non-smokers is to eliminate all exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. The U strictly abides to the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act, which bans smoking in most public establishments. The law also covers the outdoor area within 25 feet of buildings. More importantly, the act allows for the ban of smoking outdoors on the premises.

Although the U complies with the law indoors, it does not seem to regulate smoking outdoors. What about these smoke-free zones? According to the U’s Tobacco-Free Campus guidelines, smoking is prohibited outside in areas where non-smokers cannot avoid exposure. Yet, ashtrays are found at the entrances of every building, encouraging smokers to walk up to or stand next to doors with lit cigarettes.

The small courtyard and walkway between LNCO and OSH is the perfect example of this occurring. Non-smokers are repeatedly subjected to walking through and breathing harmful ETS, proven to contain 4,000 chemicals, 200 of which are poisonous. Benches with three or four ashtrays signify a smoking area, but buildings are extremely close together and non-smokers cannot avoid it.

The U guidelines further explain that enforcement depends upon the courtesy, respect and cooperation of all members of the U community. Unresolved complaints should be directed to the Department of Environmental Health & Safety, but when contacted, department personnel said they didn’t know who was responsible for enforcing the smoke-free areas of campus and suggested calling campus security. Interestingly, security said to contact campus police, who said to contact the fire marshal.

Individuals who have the time to take a smoke break also have the time to walk to areas designated for smoking. Most smokers agree with the rights of non-smokers, and now more than ever are actually trying to be considerate of our choice to not encounter any ETS whatsoever. If the U permits smoking on campus, it must provide some type of area that allows people to smoke while at the same time allowing non-smokers to avoid exposure to the harmful ETS.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation reports as of July 1, 131 colleges and universities across the United States are 100 percent smoke-free campuses without exemptions, and 31 more are smoke free with minor exemptions of remote areas found outdoors.

I’m not suggesting the U ban smoking 100 percent, although it would be a lovely dream. However, with all the proof pertaining to the health risks of ETS, why isn’t the U protecting its community by enforcing the existing guidelines and laws? Better yet, why doesn’t the U quit encouraging the breaking of laws by moving all the ashtrays at least 25 feet from entrances and walkways?

“Smoking is the single greatest avoidable cause of disease and death,” said former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona in the 2006 report.

It’s time for the U to start protecting the health of non-smokers on campus by demanding compliance from smokers.

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